Product placement fastest growing ad phenom

Product placement veteran George Simkowski recalls the glory days when he placed client Budget Rent a Car in the 1987 John Hughes hit comedy, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Uptight ad executive Steve Martin and shower curtain ring salesman John Candy are forced to travel together in order to get home for Thanksgiving. Part of their frustrating journey includes renting a Budget car in Kansas City.

That Budget’s rentals went up significantly after the movie was released was definitely due to its inclusion in the movie, Simkowski said.

Now it turns out that product placement on TV shows is one of the fastest growing forms of TV-related marketing. The top 10 brands generated 8,145 “occurrences” on network TV during the first three quarters of 2004, led by Coca-Cola Classic (2,245 exposures) and Pepsi (1,109).

While Nielsen’s new product placement tracking service does not provide explicit dollar values to such deals, Nielsen said the top 10 brands more than doubled the number of product plugs compared with the first nine months of 2003.

The top 10 TV shows featuring product placements accounted for 18,454 brand occurrences. “American Idol” tops the list, largely due to the program’s relationship with Coca-Cola. Other reality programs that feature frequent brand occurrences include “The Apprentice,” “Pepsi Smash,” and “Big Brother 5.”